Paddle ‘Round Portland: Highland Lake
You don’t need to go way up north to have a canoe or kayak adventure. There’s plenty of spots right around town where you can get out on the water before or after work. Remember: every place outside your house is the great outdoors. Enjoy it.
PRP: Highland Lake in Falmouth, from the boat launch to the dam and back.
Get in: From Monument Square, it’s nine miles to the start of this paddle at the state-owned public boat launch off Lowell Farm Road in Falmouth. Depending on after-work traffic, it should take about a half hour to get there.
Paddle: The the loop we did was only two miles long. We finished it in two hours. We paddled down the narrows, to the Mill Brook Dam, and back to the launch. We didn’t enter the central or northern part of the lake.
Get out: There’s just one public launch on the lake, so you’ll have to leave the way you came. It caters to hand-carry boats only.
Highland Lake covers 623 acres and straddles Falmouth, Westbrook and Windham. At its deepest, there’s 67 feet of water. That’s up in the north end. We paddled the southern, narrow end. It was rarely over our heads. By midsummer, it will be thick with reeds and lily pads.
Don’t confuse it with another lake bearing the same name further down Route 302, in Bridgton. This Highland Lake used to be called Duck Pond. That name vanished from maps and the post office around the turn of the 20th century. I bet that’s just about the same time someone tried selling vacation house lots on it. Folks were probably a lot more willing to fork over big bucks for a spot on Highland Lake, rather than Duck Pond.
I left downtown Portland via Forest Avenue at 5 p.m. As I could have guessed, traffic was already snarling at Woodfords Corner. It was also clogged at Morrill’s Corner and only creeping by Prides Corner. It took me something like 40 minutes to go nine miles.
I turned off Route 302, onto Duck Pond Road (a reminder of the old days) then to Mast Road and Lowell Farm Road. The last bit is dirt and you have to look for signs that point left, to the boat launch.
There was room for maybe a dozen cars in the dirt lot, if you squeezed them tight. The carry to the water was just a few yards. A word of caution: the mosquitos were vicious.
A family stood in the shallow water, fishing. The father gave me a nice shove off into the shallow water. I waved and wished them luck.
I did a quick loop north, around a nearby point while waiting for Kaitlyn and Darren to show up. I met them back at the launch and we made our way south, down the narrows.
In the shade of the trees, the water looked black. It reflected the sunset-stained treetops while hiding its true depth. We were in no hurry, making slow headway and small talk.
After a while, we came to a large sign. It warned of the dam ahead, where Highland Lake ends and Mill Brook begins. We proceeded with a lot of caution.
Pulling up along a grassy bank, we checked out the dam and its fish ladder. The alewives were running on their annual migration from the sea, back home to the lake. Some were coming up the ladder and a lot more were trying hard to get up the spillway. I guess they missed a road sign somewhere.
We lingered as the sun got lower. Finally, we paddled back to the launch. We loaded our cars in a hurry. The mosquitos were even more bloodthirsty at dusk.
A half-hour later, we were at Lenny’s Pub, over the line in Westbrook. We listened to an old-timey band and ate some food. My Salmon burger was tasty but the rhubarb pie was even better.
See other paddles ’round Portland HERE.